Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hollywood Hates Hitler! by Chris Yogerst


Hollywood Hates Hitler!
Jew-baiting, Anti-Nazism, and the Senate Investigation into Warmongering in Motion Pictures

by Chris Yogerst
University Press of Mississippi
Paperback ISBN: 9781496829764
September 2020
208 pages

AmazonBarnes and Noble Powell's

“Those skeptical of motion pictures had long spread fear about the medium’s ability to influence.” — Chris Yogerst

Many of us classic film enthusiasts are well aware of the House Un-American Activities Committee's communist witch hunt that resulted in the blacklisting, or in some cases the incarceration, of numerous members of the film industry. But how much do you know about Senate Resolution 152, the investigation run by the Senate subcommittee that accused Hollywood moguls of spearheading warmongering propaganda? In the Fall of 1941, a group of Senators gathered forces to take on the big studios of Hollywood claiming that movies were used to turn isolationists into interventionists. Anti-Nazi and anti-fascist films were examined, albeit superficially, for their ability to persuade. Among those brought in to testify were Harry Warner of Warner Bros., Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century Fox, Nicholas Schenck of Loew's Inc, Barney Balaban of Paramount. The subcommittee made the argument that Hollywood studios, through consolidation and monopolization, had developed too much power and wielded that power to influence the public. However the Senators, who were staunch isolationists, had several things going against them: 1) a weak argument based on limited knowledge (some hadn't even seen the movies in question) 2) opposition from the press 3) Hollywood's strong rebuttal and 4) the impending attack on Pearl Harbor that would finally thrust the U.S. into the throes of WWII.

Author and historian Chris Yogerst explores this little known yet important moment in film history with his book Hollywood Hates Hitler! Yogerst examines American culture at the time, isolationist vs interventionist mentalities, anti-Semitism, and the events that lead to Senate Resolution 152. And then there is the deep dive to the investigation. The reader gets a front row seat to all of the action; the interrogation, the testimonies, the press response and the inevitable fallout. Films discussed include Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), The Mortal Storm (1940), Four Sons (1940), The Man I Married (1940), Escape (1940), Man Hunt (1941), The Great Dictator (1941), Sergeant York (1941), among others. The subject matter can be quite dry and the details overwhelming but there is enough context given that makes this scholarly book a fascinating read. If you want to expand your knowledge on the film industry and censorship, I highly recommend giving this book a try!




This is my sixth and final review for the Summer Reading Challenge.

Thank you to University Press of Mississippi and Chris Yogerst for sending me a copy for review.

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